Sweet as sugar
This week, let's have a look at the sucrier: that beautiful and indispensable part of the early 19th Century tea service.
A sucrier is a sugar pot, usually with a cover. The word is French (sucre is French for sugar). Every tea service had a rather large sucrier with it; many have gone their separate ways and are now on the market just by themselves. And why not? They are so beautiful and if you find them too big for sugar, they are good for little scones, biscuits or sweets, or to keep your receipts and keys safe.
So why were these sucriers so large? Sugar was consumed in huge quantities in 18th and 19th Century Britain. Colonial Britain owned countless plantations in the West Indies, and Britain also had a monopoly on sugar refinement. So the sugar that was grown in the colonies (usually through the dark practice of slavery) was shipped to the UK where it was refined in huge factories, and then sold all over the world, bringing an important source of cash into the country.
Today's most beautiful art and architecture in Britain was fuelled by this dark chapter in the Industrial Revolution. This is confronting stuff to consider... and yet, now we have all these wonderful sucriers everywhere!
There is another reason the consumption of sugar was so high. The factories that suddenly sprung up in the early 19th Century were filled with newly urban workers who had come from the countryside and suddenly found themselves in overcrowded slums. Providing them with nutritious food was a real challenge as there was no infrastructure; it was an unprecedented situation that people were not ready for. So how to keep all these workers energised and fit for work? You can feel it coming: if there is no nutritious food, just give them sugar! Sugar was everywhere anyway, as was tea, so providing lots of sweet tea and sugary food was a cheap way to keep the workforce going in their daily toil.
In many ways you could blame much of our modern-day addiction to sugar to this period; it is now very hard to wean ourselves off it even though today we know how unhealthy it is.
Although I don't take sugar in my tea or coffee, I do have a weakness for sucriers. They are beautiful, often in very original shapes, and they can serve so many purposes; I have quite a few stashed throughout the house with receipts, old phone cables or other bits and pieces. And when there is a tea party I can serve sugar with the tea of course!
Where to find things
You can find all my jugs, bowls and sucriers here, and you can find all my available stock here. If you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story several times a week.
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Happy weekend, and enjoy your tea!
An H&R Daniel sucrier on my dresser